We all spin fantasies about ourselves. We’re better looking than we are, smarter than we are, more morally pure than we really are. I thought I knew who I was. I would stand for the vanguard of the cheap, fun car. The secondhand Mazda Miatas of the world, the Craigslist gems. Porsche 911s? They could get stuffed, far as I was concerned. They were for rich people, posers, and rich posers. Then I drove the 2019 Porsche 911 GTS, and it was so good that everything else has gotten infinitely worse.
(Full Disclosure: Porsche wanted me to drive the Porsche 911 GTS so bad that I asked them for a Porsche 718 Boxster GTS, to which they said “alright,” but then there was a bit of a scheduling mixup so they very graciously put me in a Porsche 911 GTS instead, which had a full tank of gas when I picked it up at the airport. I’m grateful and terrified that they did.)
The 911 was—and maybe still is, in small part—to me an exemplification of the worst sort of car “enthusiast.” The sort of person who bought a “sports car” not because they wanted to have fun, but because they wanted a badge. The most awful of all, of course, is the person who buys a new Porsche 911.
Those people, yes THOSE people, were vulgar. Crass. Nouveau riche.
They did well after going to some sniveling white-shoe law firm, right out of Yale, you see, making shell corporations for oil companies that removed all legal liabilities after their tanker crashed into a rock and killed every living thing within 3,000 square miles. And for that great work, they rewarded themselves with a Porsche 911. Usually a Carrera 4 convertible or something else that’s godawful, in my mind.
Next on the list of People Whomst I Most Hate would be the air-cooled 911 owners. Not only are they also nouveau riche (you know they’re nouveau riche because Old Money will only drive 1990s Range Rovers), but they’re preachy. “I’ve really never felt better since I started driving an air-cooled 911!” they’d say through a smug smile.
“Nothing on Earth is like an air-cooled 911,” they’d say. “Aw man, you GOTTA try an air-cooled Porsche,” they’d bleat. “Have you tried juicing?” they’d add.
Ugh. Gross. The vegans of the car world.
And then they’d go spend $91 billion on Bring A Trailer for some pointlessly obscure 1974 Porsche 911 variant. They’ll adore their Porsche 911 RSJ4TR, which was driven by Jürgen Hanschustermann at the vaunted Targa Bore-io, a race that was only held once because all the spectators spontaneously combusted.
Truly, a watershed moment in all of motorsports history, and this particular vehicle’s association with it justifies its price tag.
The only Porsche 911 people I could remotely stomach being vaguely in the vicinity of would be owners of 996-generation Porsche 911s, because everyone derides those and makes fun of them and makes fun of the people who own them, and I like an underdog story. And also, because a 996 Porsche 911 is genuinely fun to drive.
At least until people realize that the 996, the oddball of all the Porsche 911s, has a certain oddball charm. Then those all start shooting up in price for no reason, too.
My long, deep-seated aversion to Porsche 911s didn’t extend to everything Porsche made. The Porsche 914 looks like a slab of bricks and has a Volkswagen van engine, which makes it quirky and fun. The Porsche 944 is a cheap track day hero. The Porsche 928 is for people who have no shame in never leaving 1987. I like those people. The Porsche 968? No one even knows what that is anymore. It’s great.
Which is what led me to request a Porsche 718 Boxster GTS for my trip to Los Angeles to visit Andrew Collins, who has a banged-up most-of-a-hand.
I didn’t end up with a Boxster. I ended up with a 2019 Porsche 911 GTS.
And it was joy in driving form.
I know, I know, one Mr. “Andrew Collins” from a terrible website called “Jalopnik” said that a very similar car was missing “something” called “fun” a little while back. He also said that it “doesn’t have much personality.”
But the truth—the REAL TRUTH here—is that Jalopnik Reviews Editor Andrew Collins has been out on medical leave at the moment after going for a tumble, and the end result is that I can now say whatever I want on this dang blog. And what I want to say is that, I’m sorry Andrew, but the Porsche 911 GTS is great.
I know, I know, I hate myself for even writing that. But we’ll get back to my self-loathing in a minute, because we now need to talk about loving. Loving the Porsche 911 GTS.
This isn’t one of those cars where you get the old cliche of “it feels special from the moment you get in.” From the moment you get in, it feels like a rich person’s car.
Leather, aluminum, Alcantara everywhere. Lots of fiddly little buttons and an awful navigation system to make you feel like you’ve overpaid for something and you’re back in 2004. Yes, there’s a separate button for the navigation system AND the map, respectively.
Just like lots of rich people cars.
And once you get past the giant Porsche logo on the steering wheel, you notice how small the wheel itself is. At 14.1 inches, it felt smaller than the one in a 2019 Mazda Miata. You grab it with both hands and you feel like you’re about to wrestle a small woodland animal. You turn the oddly-Porsche-but-not-quite-Porsche-shaped keyfob in its little slot to the left of the steering wheel, and the whole thing goes BARK! and everyone around you swivels their head.
Yes, your worst fears are confirmed. Everyone around you knows that you are now the Porsche Man.
So you resolve to get out of whatever parking lot you’re in, as quickly as possible. It makes the stares hurt less.
You slip Porsche’s PDK dual-clutch transmission into drive, and you get out of there with, it turns out, a little too much hustle.
The first thing you notice dawdling around in traffic just how stiff the suspension is. And in a Nissan 370Z or whatever, that sort of stiffness feels cheap in a way. It’s not, not really, but in my mind it registers as “oh, the manufacturer couldn’t afford to build this car in a way that it would really go fast, so they just made the suspension rock hard.”
Except in the Porsche 911 GTS, it makes it feel racy.
And then you turn the steering wheel a bit, and that feels racy, too. So many cars nowadays come with a wheel that quickly turns you into Popeye, because a lot of car companies think that underpowered steering equals good steering, when really it’s about what you can feel in the road. The Porsche’s steering does take effort to move, sure, but it’s the feel that shocks you. You feel every little crack, every bend and dip in the road surface.
At first my brain immediately thought that something was wrong—if I’m feeling such strange things from the front right tire, then the front right tire must be flat, right?—but no, you just need to adjust to what it means to FEEL again, much like in your own life.
While all of these thoughts were swirling around my head, Kurt Bradley invited me up to the Angeles Crest Highway, above the city of Los Angeles. He had a Porsche 911 GT3 Touring, you see, and he thought it’d be fun to have a driving partner.
On a twisty road like that, I finally got it. The twin-turbo, 450-horsepower, 405 pound-feet of torque flat-six engine is raspy and loud, barely muted at all by the turbochargers. Porsche has gone so far as to take out a whole bunch of sound insulation in the GTS model, just so you can hear it better.
It grips and grips and grips, the sort of car that lets you know that you’ll run out of confidence before the car itself does. The seven-speed PDK transmission blips and BLATS the throttle, each BLORT coming from the rear of the car a reminder that this isn’t a mere tarted-up Infiniti.
It’s got soul. It’s got savagery.
It’s one of those cars that we’re always begging for.
Okay, alright, so when you’re finally done screaming around like an idiot, everyone still looks at you as the “Porsche Man” who only made enough money through the virtues of plastic surgery or vampire capitalism or vast inheritance to get an obvious car, a Porsche 911.
But whereas before I hated the Porsche 911 and everything that came with it, I get it now. I’m the guy who looks at someone in a Porsche 911 and knows they’re having a great time, despite the $130,000 they would have plunked down for a lightly-optioned GTS like this one. I’m the guy who hears someone buying a Porsche 911 and goes “wow, that’s a great car.”
I’m the guy I used to hate.
But the Porsche 911 GTS is just that good.